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SOCIAL JUSTICE: WHERE DO WE BEGIN?

social justiceJustice is not only to render to each one his due; it is seen as the first requirement of love. Love transforms justice from within. God loves us and wants us to love others as He loves them. From this love we are called to give others their full due in the community.

The principle of social justice obliges us to be active and productive participants in the life of community and society, to work for the common good. Corollary to this is the obligation of society to allow us to participate in this way.

Being socially just includes a duty to organize economic and social institutions so that people can contribute to society in ways that respect their freedom and the dignity of their labor. Work should enable the working person to become more human, more capable of acting intelligently, freely, and in ways that lead to self-realization. The social and economic institutions should not ‘dehumanize’ the workers or the entrepreneurs or in any limit their basic rights as human beings in society. The institutions should promote full employment (as compared to underemployment) with adequate pay. There should be no discrimination in job opportunities or income levels on the basis of race, sex, or other arbitrary standards like physical appearance.

Social justice calls into question extreme inequalities of income and consumption (especially conspicuous consumption) when so many lack basic necessities. This extreme inequality poses a treat to the solidarity of the human community, and will only lead to deeper social divisions and conflict.

Social justice impacts on every person in every aspect of community and society. We cannot live out the Gospel as authentic Christians unless we take dynamic and positive action to improve the lives of every member of society — at a minimum, those within our spheres of influence and concern. God calls us to express our love for Him and for our neighbors through our response to the cry for social and economic justice. Our response will be based on, and measured in terms of, our relationship with God.

cultivating tree of love and justiceWhere do we begin? Let us live simply so that others may simply live. Let us live out the threefold formula of Micah: walking humbly in our personal prayer, sacramental life, and communion with Jesus; loving mercy through doing good deeds and kindnesses to others; and upholding justice in our respective marketplaces. Let us observe proper stewardship of the authority, talent, wealth, possessions, relationships, and our personal character that the Lord has given us.

We need to cultivate a spirit of social generosity. There is a saying, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” This expands generosity beyond the material things in life. Giving also embraces the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and psychological needs of others.

Lastly, social transformation is a matter of empowerment. However, instead of people empowerment to take power, we need to see people being empowered through Spirit empowerment. We, ourselves, need to be spiritually empowered.

We are called to express our love for God and for our neighbors through our response to the cry for social and economic justice. Our response will be based on, and measured in terms of, our relationship with God.

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Source: Evangelizing Presence: The Heart of Social Transformation, by Nancy R. Catan and Fr. Pat Giordano. A BCBP Publication.

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